Seagate talks data portability

Written by Brett Thomas

January 10, 2007 | 21:45

Tags: #freeagent

Companies: #seagate

What happens when you take the biggest HDD maker in the world, let them buy one of the top 4 largest, and give them a year to get acquainted? You end up with Seagate - the Maxtor acquisition is now old news, but the fruits of their labours are just showing up now. And thankfully, it's not bad fruit at all. I sat down with the company's marketing director, Brian, to talk about what's ahead.

First of all, Seagate has learned a valuable lesson from Maxtor, which was famous for its backup solutions - data safety and simplicity matters. Of course, it probably would help if Maxtor had initially had the reliability of Seagate's drives - but it ended up developing some fantastic solutions for one-touch backup.

Seagate intends to leave these well-enough alone, letting Maxtor keep its brand, its product names, and a sharp dividing line between it and Seagate. The big integration is in corporate philosophy - Maxtor had always stressed ease-of-use and backup - cheap, large hard-drives and the consumer technology to make them easy to operate. This mass-market application is going to remain untouched and under the Maxtor label, but its massive appeal has turned Seagate on to a new direction.

Where? Check your pocket.

Seagate's 2007 lineup is focusing entirely on data control and availability. All the storage in the world is useless if your hard drive is miles away from you - to that effect, Seagate has targeted the external and mobile market with its FreeAgent line of products, winners of a CES 2007 Innovations Award.

First up is the FreeAgent pro - an external HDD (up to 750GB currently) that features both eSATA and USB 2.0 connections. The connection method is actually interchangeable, as well - a Firewire 800 port is available seperately (and will be included in the box for the second version of the product), and other technologies will be added as they become availaible. This way, your drive can be anywhere you need it to be, regardless of the computer you attach it to. It also looks the business - a black brushed aluminum casing with glowing orange inserts and Seagate logo.

Even more interesting than the drive is its included software - you can actually set up common tasks, and the software will recognize as you add files to particular folders and perform them. For instance, one of the options demonstrated was a ShutterFly setup - we put the XD card from my camera in, dragged the pictures into the usual "My pictures," and the software automatically backed them up to the FreeAgent and simultaneously uploaded them to ShutterFly. More interconnectivity options are being explored and can be added with updates, allowing multiple repeated tasks to be completed in the background simply by a drag and drop.

In the same style is the release of the FreeAgent Go, which I found rather exciting. Anyone who's familiar with U3 for flash drives will be familiar with the concept - virtually carrying your entire desktop experience with you wherever you are. It's supported almost entirely by open software (though Outlook Express does function), and Seagate has gathered some pretty big names to support the initiative. Models will range from 12GB (truly pocket sized) to 160GB. I got the opportunity to see it in action, and it actually functions a lot better than U3 ever did - one of the most important changes is that it synchronizes with your home PC (unlike previous technologies).

Though it's true that you can only do so much with HDDs, that doesn't mean the company is lagging behind on that. Terabyte drives are "just around the corner" thanks to perpendicular recording, and we've got an interview coming up to discuss hybrid drives - so we'll let you know as soon as we do. But as for its main focus, Seagate is using this year to not just make better storage, but make it more accessible and controllable for everyone using it.

Got a thought on the new products? Let us know in our forums.

The FreeAgent Pro in action, and its connectors (with optional Firewire connector)

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